Ethnomusicology at York

York was the first Music Department in the UK to integrate ethnomusicology into its undergraduate and postgraduate teaching programme.  It has also pioneered the study of Javanese gamelan music in the university curriculum.  Some former York students who have gone on to distinguished careers in ethnomusicology include Jim Kippen, Jonathan Stock, Steve Stanton, Francis Silkstone, Somsak Ketukaenchan, Bussakorn Sumrongthong, Verity Sharp, presenter of world music and other programmes on BBC Radio 3 and Alex Newby, Production Editor of the world music magazine Songlines.

Composers, including Richard Causton and Jane Gardner, were active in the gamelan and have used the experience in their professional work. Gamelan programmes around the country, most notably the one at London's South Bank Centre, have several prominent members who  studied gamelan at York, including John Pawson, Peter Smith, Emma Dowden, David Kettle, Maria Mendonca and Isabelle Carré.


Neil Sorrell studied ethnomusicology at the School of Oriental and African Music, London, with Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy, and at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, with Robert Brown, Theodore Grame and other professors, and also with the visiting artists Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and Pandit Sharda Sahai (from India),  Prawotosaputro (from Java) and Abraham Adzenyah (from Ghana).   He became the pupil in India of the foremost sarangi master, Pandit Ram Narayan and also learnt from Ustad Abdul Majid Khan and Ustad Mohammad Ali Khan.   He has also studied gamelan in Java and the USA with Sumarsam and I.M. Harjito.

As a student of Robert Brown at Wesleyan he is in effect the 'grand-student' of Mantle Hood, the pioneer of 'bimusicality' and performance studies within ethnomusicology.  As a result he developed the study of Javanese gamelan in the UK, first through workshops at the Indonesian Embassy in London (1977), then through the formation of the English Gamelan Orchestra (1980) and thence to the acquisition of Gamelan Sekar Petak at York (1981).  The gamelan has been central to the work in ethnomusicology at York ever since.  It is also our policy to use the gamelan as a compositional resource and to encourage student composers to create works for it, sometimes with additional instruments.

The Department is proud to have among its Honorary Visiting Professors the famous Indian sarod virtuoso, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, and the distinguished Mahler and Britten scholar, Dr Donald Mitchell, who is also the leading champion of Thai music in the UK.

Undergraduate courses

As well as an introductory survey course on World Music, undergraduate projects are offered in Indian Music, Gamelan Music, the influence of Eastern music on Western composers, and we have also included Japanese and Thai music in the curriculum.

Postgraduate courses

Ethnomusicology is offered as one of the pathways for the MA and Postgraduate Diploma in Music.

M Phil and D Phil thesis in ethnomusicology may also be submitted.  Recent topics include African music (M Phil) and Thai music (D Phil).


Gamelan Sekar Petak, which attracts around a quarter of the entire student body, and which rehearses and  performs            regularly throughout the academic year.

Thai Pi-Phat ensemble, which is used for occasional teaching by visiting Thai musicians.

set of Ewe drums from Ghana.

Indian instruments, including sitar, tabla, tambura, vina, sarod, sarangi, flute and harmonium.

related zithers from China, Korea and Japan.